Assumption Prayer for life

Lord Jesus Christ,
You have conquered the power of death
And opened for humanity
The hope of eternal life in body and soul.

You granted your Mother
A share in heavenly glory,
And did not allow decay to touch her body.

As we rejoice in the Assumption of Mary,
Grant us new confidence in the victory of life over death,
And renewed reverence for the human body.

As we honor Mary, Assumed into Heaven,
May we proclaim the hope of Your Gospel:
That you want every human life seated on your throne.

May that hope strengthen us to protect every life here on earth.

You live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

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Supreme Court considering Priests for Life case against HHS mandate

Priest for Life

NEW YORK — The Supreme Court will meet on September 28 to consider whether or not it will hear Priests for Life’s challenge to the HHS mandate.

In the lead case for the Churches and religious non-profits objecting to the HHS mandate, “Priests for Life, et al. v. Department of Health and Human Services,” the Court consolidated the Priests for Life petition with that of the Archdiocese of Washington. Petitioners in the Priests for Life case include not only the organization, but also, in their personal capacities, Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr. and full-time Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life, as well as Janet Morana, co-founder of Silent No More, and Fr. Frank Pavone.

The Obama administration’s response to the joint petitions contends that the new “accommodation” for faith-based ministries does not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Robert Muise, co-founder and senior co-counsel of the American Freedom Law Center, said that, “In arguing, contrary to Priests for Life’s contentions, that it would be consistent with Catholic Church teaching for Priests for Life to comply with the challenged regulations, the government is taking on the impermissible role of deciding what does or does not violate Church teaching and then asking the Court to exceed both its judicial function and its judicial competence by confirming the government’s position. If the Court accepts this argument, it will destroy religious freedom as we know it.”

Priests for Life will submit its reply to the government’s objections on August 26.

Father Pavone said the government’s arguments are unpersuasive and dangerous:

“They are saying, in effect, that they know better than we do what violates our faith. It’s ridiculous, and it undermines all that American was founded on. It is the believer who believes, and the government is supposed to respect his right to believe, not control it.”

A Friend of the Court Brief supporting the petition of Priests for Life in this case has been filed, with the assistance of Americans United for Life, by the following groups: Association of American Physicians & Surgeons; American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Christian Medical Association; National Catholic Bioethics Center; Alabama Physicians for Life; National Association of Pro-life Nurses, and the National Association of Catholic Nurses.

Attorneys at the American Freedom Law Center have indicated that because Priests for Life, in addition to being a religious non-profit entity, is particularly well-suited to challenge the HHS mandate, because the very mission of the organization is to protect human life from precisely the activities that the mandate wants to expand.

To read the government’s response to Priests for Life’s petition, go here

To see all the documentation and commentary on this case, visit here

Priests for Life is the nation’s largest Catholic pro-life organization dedicated to ending abortion and euthanasia.

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Carthusians Commemorated

We commemorate several other Carthusians killed because of their loyalty to the faith and the Church:
* other Carthusians, victems of the French Revolution, not yet beatified
* the Carthusians of Prague, killed by Hussites in 1421
* Dom Justus van Schoonhoven, sacristan of the Charterhouse of Delft, martyred by Calvinist, in 1572
* the monks of the Charterhouse of Roermond, also martyred by Calvinist, in 1572
* the Prior and a donate brother of Montalegre, killed in Barcelona during the Spanish civil war, in 1936
* the twelve Carthusians of Farneta, near the city of Lucca, Italy, shot by a contingent of SS Nazis because they had given refuge to Jews and Italian partisans on the ‘wanted list’ of the German army, in 1944.
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Prayer to Saint Anthony of Padua

Glorious Saint Anthony, I salute you
as a good servant of Christ,
and a special friend of God.
You once were favored to hold
the Christ Child in your arms
as you cherished His world
in your heart.
Today I place all my cares,
temptations and anxieties
in your hands.
I resolve ever to honor you
by imitating your example.
Powerful patron, model of purity
and victor over fleshly impulses,
please win for me,
and for all devoted
to you, perfect purity of body,
mind and heart.
I promise by my example and counsel
to help others to the knowledge, love
and service of God.
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Martyrs of England

On 4 May 2007 the clergy and choristers of Westminster Cathedral celebrated Vespers at the London Charterhouse. This was the first public Catholic ceremony held there since the Reformation. Let us look forward to this being an annual honor to the martyrs. We join our prayers in union with the diocese of Westminster for the Martyrs of the English Reformation. Maranatha!

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Mary in the Life of the Carthusians

Since its origins, the Carthusian Order has paid a special homage to the Mother of God. Mary is the Order’s principal Patron (along with St. John the Baptist), ever the Christian, full of redemptive grace. As the Mother of Christ and of the Mystical Body, she begets her son spiritually in the soul. In this awarness, the Carthusian naturally prays with and to the Christ’s Mother.

For every Christian and for every human being, Mary is the one who first believed. Out of her faith as Spouse and Mother, she desires to act upon all those who entrust themselves to her as her children. And the more her children persevere and progress in this attitude, the nearer Mary leads them to the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8) They recognize ever more clearly the dignity of man in all its fullness and the definnitive meaning of his vocation, for “Christ fully reveals man to man hinself.” (Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, #22)

Mary play’s a primary role in the solitary life of the monk. As fas as human frailty allows, his soul continually strives to draw close to God and remain faithful to this spousal covenant of love. This effort unites the Carthusian in a special way with the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we are accustomed to call Mater Singularis Carthusiensium (the Mother in particular of all Carthusians). We honor her with a special affection by daily reciting her Little Office and by consecrating our church and the community to her Immaculate Heart.

Devotion to Mary leads us into a living communion with her Son Jesus and allows us to experience the depth of His love. She teaches by obtaining for us in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even as she offers us the incomparable example of her pilgrimage of faith. Her “school” leads to a harvest of holiness as we contemplate the beauty of the countenance of Jesus and the mystery of His life. Mary invites us to follow her example at the Annunciation, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) She guides us to ask humbly for that which opens us to the light and, in the end, leads to the obedience of faith.

In addition to the Canonical Divine Office, the Carthusian begins and ends each day with Our Lady so the entire day is lovingly enclosed in her maternal embrace. The monk recites the Office of the Blessed Virgin each day in his cell. To implore the continuous protection of Mary, every Charterhouse celebrates a daily Mass in her honor. On Saturday, this Mass is celebrated as the Community Mass. On the other days it is said in private.

Other daily devotions to Mary include the singing of the Salve Regina at the end of Vespers and the Ave Maria at the end of Lauds, and the recitation of the Angelus in her honor four times daily where each of three Hail Marys is preceded by a veniam (the monk kisses the floor). Monks also recite a Hail Mary each time they enter their cell from outside. Particularly beautiful is the Carthusian custom of reciting the Little Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary before the  corresponding Canonical Hours (except at Compline when we recite her Office last). The Order this addresses its first and last words of the day “to Jesus through Mary.”

“There is one other aspect of Carthusian life, the monks agree, that cannot be passed without mention. Every monk nourishes a deep practical devotion to the Virgin Mary. Carthusians have clung to the tradition of reciting the “Little Office” of the Virgin before the regular canonical hours. They also feel that Mary guides them through their solitary lives each day. “When I think of what I’d do without the Blessed Mother,” one monk says, and his voice trails off. The three monks sit in silence for a moment, shaking their heads, as if an absurdity has been introduced into the conversation. A Carthusian life unaided by Mary is unthinkable. “

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Blessed Dionysius of Rijkel

Roman Calendar : March 12
Carthusian Calendar : March 12

Also known as : Denys, Dennis the Carthusian

Born in 1402 in that part of the Belgian province of Limburg which was formerly comprised in the county of Hesbaye; died 12 March, 1471. His birthplace was Ryckel, a small village a few miles from Saint-Trond, whence ancient writers have often surnamed him Ryckel or à Ryckel. His parents, historians say, were of noble rank; he himself says, however, that when a child he kept his father’s sheep. His remarkable aptitude for intellectual pursuits and his eagerness to learn induced his parents to give him a liberal education, and they sent him to a school at Saint-Trond. In 1415 he went to another school at Zwolle (Overijssel), which was then of great repute and attracted many students from various parts of Germany. He there entered upon the study of philosophy and became acquainted with the principles and practice of religious life, which the rector, John Cele, a very holy man, himself taught. Shortly after the rector’s death (1417) he returned home, having learnt all that the masters of the school could teach him. His feverish quest for human science and the success his uncommon intellectual powers had rapidly obtained seem, according to his own account, to have rather dulled his piety. Nevertheless a supernatural leaning to cloistral life, which had taken root in his mind from the early age of ten and had grown stronger during his stay at Zwolle, finally triumphed over worldly ambition and the instincts of nature, and at the age of eighteen he determined to acquire the “science of saints” in St. Bruno’s order.

Having applied for admittance at the Carthusian monastery at Roermond (Dutch Limburg), he was refused because he had not reached the age (twenty years) required by the statutes of the order; but the prior gave him hopes that he would be received later on, and advised him to continue meanwhile his ecclesiastical studies. So he went forthwith to the then celebrated University of Cologne, where he remained three years, studying philosophy, theology, the Holy Scriptures, etc. After taking his degree of Master of Arts, he returned to the monastery at Roermond and this time was admitted (1423). In his cell Denys gave himself up heart and soul to the duties of Carthusian life, performing all with his characteristic earnestness and strength of will, and letting his zeal carry him even far beyond what the rule demanded. Thus, over and above the time–about eight hours–every Carthusian spends daily in hearing and saying Mass, reciting Divine Office, and in other devotional exercises, he was wont to say the whole Psalter–his favourite prayer book–or at least a great part of it, and he passed long hours in meditation and contemplation; nor did material occupations usually hinder him from praying. Reading and writing took up the rest of his time. The list he drew up, about two years before his death, of some of the books he had read while a monk bears the names of all the principal ecclesiastical writers down to his time. He had read, he says, every summa and every chronicle, many commentaries on the Bible, and the works of a great number of Greek, and especially Arab, philosophers, and he had studied the whole of canon as well as civil law. His favourite author was Dionysius the Areopagite. His quick intellect seized the author’s meaning at first reading and his wonderful memory retained without much effort all that he had ever read.

It seems marvellous that, spending so much time in prayer, he should have been able to peruse so vast a number of books; but what passes all comprehension is that he found time to write, and to write so much that his works might make up twenty-five folio volumes. No other pen, whose productions have come down to us, has been so prolific. It is true that he took not more than three hours’ sleep a night, and that he was known to spend sometimes whole nights in prayer and study. There is evidence, too, that his pen was a swift one. Nevertheless the mystery still remains insolvable, and all the more so that, besides the occupations already mentioned, he had, at least for some time, others which will be presently noted, and which alone would have been enough to absorb the attention of any ordinary man. He began (1434) by commenting the Psalms and then went on to comment the whole of the Old and the New Testament. He commented also the works of Boethius, Peter Lombard, John Climacus, as well as those of, or attributed to, Dionysius the Areopagite, and translated Cassian into easier Latin. It was after seeing one of his commentaries that Pope Eugene IV exclaimed: “Let Mother Church rejoice to have such a son!” He wrote theological treatises, such as his “Summa Fidei Orthodoxæ”; “Compendium Theologicum”, “De Lumine Christianæ Theoriæ”, “De Laudibus B. V. Mariæ”, and “De Præconio B. V. Mariæ” (in both of which treatises he upholds the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception), “De quatuor Novissimus”, etc.; philosophical treatises, such as his “Compendium philosophicum”, “De venustate mundi et pulchritudine Dei” (a most remarkable æsthetic dissertation), “De ente et essentiâ”, etc.; a great many treatises relating to morals, asceticism, church discipline, liturgy, etc.; sermons and homilies for all the Sundays and festivals of the year, etc. His writings, taken as a whole, show him to be a compiler rather than an original thinker; they contain more unction and piety than deep speculation. He was no innovator, no builder of systems, and especially no quibbler. Indeed he had a decided dislike for metaphysical subtleties of no positive use, for he was of far too practical a turn of mind to waste time in idle dialectic niceties, and sought only to do immediate good to souls and tend their spiritual needs, drawing them away from sin and guiding and urging them on in the path to heaven.

As an expounder of Scripture, he generally does no more than reproduce or recapitulate what other commentators had said before him. If his commentaries bring no light to modern exegetics they are at least an abundant mine of pious reflections. As a theologian and a philosopher he is a servile follower of no one master and belongs to no particular school. Although an admirer of Aristotle and Aquinas, he is neither an Aristotelian nor a Thomist in the usual sense of the words, but seems inclined rather to the Christian Platonism of Dionysius the Areopagite, St. Augustine, and St. Bonaventure. As a mystical writer he is akin to Hugh and Richard of St. Victor, St. Bonaventure, and the writers of the Wildesheim School, and in his treatises may be found summed up the doctrine of the Fathers of the Church, especially of Dionysius the Areopagite, and of Eckart, Suso, Ruysbroeck, and other writers of the German and Flemish Schools. He has been called the last of the Schoolmen, and he is so in the sense that he is the last important Scholastic writer, and that his works may be considered to form a vast encyclopedia, a complete summary of the Scholastic teaching of the Middle Ages; this is their primary characteristic and their chief merit.

His renown for learning and especially for saintliness, drew upon him considerable intercourse with the outer world. He was consulted as an oracle by men of different social standing, from bishops and princes downwards; they flocked to his cell, and numberless letters came to him from all parts of the Netherlands and Germany. The topic of such correspondence was often the grievous state of the Church in Europe, i. e. the evils ensuing from relaxed morals and discipline and from the invasion of Islam. Deploring these evils he exerted himself to the utmost, like all pious Catholics of that day, to counteract them. For that purpose, soon after the fall of Constantinople (1453), impressed by revelations God made to him concerning the terrific woes threatening Christendom, he wrote a letter to all the princes of Europe, urging them to amend their lives, to cease their dissensions, and to join in war against their common enemy, the Turks. A general council being in his eyes the only means of procuring serious reform, he exhorted all prelates and others to unite their efforts to bring it about. He wrote also a series of treatises, laying down rules of Christian living for churchmen and for laymen of every rank and profession. “De doctrinâ et regulis vitæ Christianæ”, the most important of these treatises, was written at the request, and for the use, of the famous Franciscan preacher John Brugman. These and others which he wrote of a similar import, inveighing against the vices and abuses of the time, insisting on the need of a general reform, and showing how it was to be effected, give a curious insight into the customs, the state of society, and ecclesiastical life of that period. To refute Mohammedanism he wrote two treatises: “Contra perfidiam Mahometi”, at the request of Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa. The latter, named papal legate by Nicholas V to reform the Church in Germany and to preach a crusade against the Turks, took Denys with him during a part, if not the whole, of his progress (Jan., 1451-March, 1452), and received from his tongue and his pen valuable assistance, especially in the work of reforming monasteries and of rooting out magical and superstitious practices. This mission was not the only charge which drew Denys from his much-loved cell. He was for some time (about 1459) procurator of his monastery, and in July, 1466, was appointed to superintend the building of a monastery at Bois-le-Duc. A three- years’ struggle against ;the inextricable difficulties of the new foundation broke down his health, already impaired by a long life of ceaseless work and privations, and he was obliged to return to Roermond in 1469. His treatise “De Meditatione” bears the date of the same year and was the last he wrote.

The immense literary activity of Denys had never been detrimental to his spirit of prayer. On the contrary he always found in study a powerful help to contemplation; the more he knew, the more he loved. While still a novice he had ecstasies which lasted two or three hours, and later on they lasted sometimes seven hours and more. Indeed, towards the end of his life he could not hear the singing of “Veni Sancte Spiritus” or some verses of the Psalms, nor converse on certain devotional subjects without being lifted off the ground in a rapture of Divine love. Hence posterity has surnamed him “Doctor ecstaticus”. During his ecstasies many things were revealed to him which he made known only when it could profit others, and the same may be said of what he learnt from the souls in purgatory, who appeared to him very frequently, seeking relief through his powerful intercession. Loving souls as he did, it is no wonder that he should have become odious to the great hater of souls. His humility responded to his learning, and his mortification, especially with regard to food and sleep, far excelled what the generality of men can attain to. It is true that in point of physical austerities, virtue was assisted by a strong constitution, for he was a man of athletic build and had, as he said, “an iron head and a brazen stomach”.

During the last two years of his life he suffered intensely and with heroic patience from paralysis, stone, and other infirmities. He had been a monk for forty-eight years when he died at the age of sixty-nine. Upon his remains being disinterred one hundred and thirty-seven years after, day for day (12 March, 1608), his skull emitted a sweet perfume and the fingers he had most used in writing, i. e. the thumb and forefinger of the right hand, were found in a perfect state of preservation. Although the cause of his beatification has never yet been introduced, St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and other writers of note style him “Blessed”; his life is in the “Acta Sanctorum” of the Bollandists (12 March), and his name is to be found in many martyrologies. An accurate edition of all his works still extant, which will comprise forty-one quarto volumes, is now being issued by the Carthusian Press at Tournai, Belgium.

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St. Anthony of the Desert

Founder of Christian monasticism. The chief source of information on St. Anthony is a Greek Life attributed to St. Athanasius, to be found in any edition of his works. A note of the controversy concerning this Life is given at the end of this article; here it will suffice to say that now it is received with practical unanimity by scholars as a substantially historical record, and as a probably authentic work of St. Athanasius. Valuable subsidiary information is supplied by secondary sources: the “Apophthegmata”, chiefly those collected under Anthony’s name (at the head of Cotelier’s alphabetical collection, P.G. LXV, 7]); Cassian, especially Coll. II; Palladius, “Historica Lausiaca”, 3,4,21,22 (ed. Butler). All this matter may probably be accepted as substantially authentic, whereas what is related concerning St. Anthony in St. Jerome‘s Life of St. Paul the Hermit” cannot be used for historical purposes.

Anthony was born at Coma, near Heracleopolis Magna in Fayum, about the middle of the third century. He was the son of well-to-do parents, and on their death, in his twentieth year, he inherited their possessions. He had a desire to imitate the life of the Apostles and the early Christians, and one day, on hearing in the church the Gospel words, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all thou hast”, he received them as spoken to himself, disposed of all his property and goods, and devoted himself exclusively to religious exercises. Long before this it had been usual for Christians to practice asceticism, abstain from marriage and exercising themselves in self-denial, fasting, prayer, and works of piety; but this they had done in the midst of their families, and without leaving house or home. Later on, in Egypt. such ascetics lived in huts, in the outskirts of the towns and villages, and this was the common practice about 270, when Anthony withdrew from the world. He began his career by practising the ascetical life in this fashion without leaving his native place. He used to visit the various ascetics, study their lives, and try to learn from each of them the virtue in which he seemed to excel. Then he took up his abode in one of the tombs, near his native village, and there it was that the Life records those strange conflicts with demons in the shape of wild beasts, who inflicted blows upon him, and sometimes left him nearly dead. After fifteen years of this life, at the age of thirty-five, Anthony determined to withdraw from the habitations of men and retire in absolute solitude. He crossed the Nile, and on a mountain near the east bank, then called Pispir, now Der el Memum, he found an old fort into which he shut himself, and lived there for twenty years without seeing the face of man, food being thrown to him over the wall. He was at times visited by pilgrims, whom he refused to see; but gradually a number of would-be disciples established themselves in caves and in huts around the mountain, Thus a colony of ascetics was formed, who begged Anthony to come forth and be their guide in the spiritual life. At length, about the year 305, he yielded to their importunities an emerged from his retreat, and, to the surprise of all, he appeared to be as when he had gone in, not emaciated, but vigorous in body and mind. For five or six years he devoted himself to the instruction and organization of the great body of monks that had grown up around him; but then he once again withdrew into the inner desert that lay between the Nile and the Red Sea, near the shore of which he fixed his abode on a mountain where still stands the monastery that bears his name, Der Mar Antonios. Here he spent the last forty-five years of his life, in a seclusion, not so strict as Pispir, for he freely saw those who came to visit him, and he used to cross the desert to Pispir with considerable frequency. The Life says that on two occasions he went to Alexandria, once after he came forth from the fort at Pispir, to strengthen the Christian martyrs in the persecution of 311, and once at the close of his life (c. 350), to preach against the Arians. The Life says he died at the age of a hundred and five, and St. Jerome places his death in 356-357. All the chronology is based on the hypothesis that this date and the figures in the Life are correct. At his own request his grave was kept secret by the two disciples who buried him, lest his body should become an object of reverence.

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Hidden Life of Charterhouse

Sacred mysteries

By Christopher Howse
The Telegraph, 13 May 2006


Hidden life of Charterhouse

Surprise is the first emotion that strikes the fortunate visitor to the Charterhouse, on the edge of the City of London, for here, wedged between the traffic fumes of Clerkenwell Road and the bloody pavements of Smithfield meat market, stands a cluster of quadrangles like those of a medieval Oxford college, with hall and chapel, tranquil behind its walls and trees.

The ancient buildings are lovely, but there is an air of sadness about the place. The original monastery, dedicated to the “Salutation” (that is to say, the Annunciation of the Incarnation by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary), was built in the 14th century as a monastery for the ascetic Carthusians.

These contemplative monks lived an astonishingly hard life, practically as hermits, each in his tiny house off the cloister, with a garden behind to dig. (A functioning Charterhouse continues today at Parkminster in West Sussex.)

The Carthusians, along with the Observant Franciscans of Greenwich and the Bridgettines at Syon, Middlesex, were a spiritual powerhouse for the nation’s capital. Befriended by kings when things were going well, they became the first victims of Henry VIII when he fell out with church authorities.

At the Charterhouse, the quadrangle today called Wash-house Court was built of medieval stonework and completed with a range of brick. The diapering of the brickwork picks out the initials JH, those of John Houghton, the prior from 1531 to 1535. In the latter year, he refused to swear an oath recognising Henry VIII as supreme head of the church, and he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on May 4.

One of his arms was nailed to the door of the Charterhouse, but this did not dissuade 15 of his brother Carthusians from holding out. Five died on the scaffold and the other 10 were starved to death in Newgate prison.

Even after the Charterhouse was re-endowed in 1611 by the legacy of Thomas Sutton, the landowner and money-lender, to give lodging to poor old men and education to boys, the uncomfortable memory remained that the buildings had once been inhabited by better men.

When the future novelist Thackeray arrived at the school in 1821, aged 10, he found it dominated by flogging and fagging. He said he was “abused into sulkiness” and “bullied into despair”, and later depicted the school under the name Slaughterhouse. There was nothing out of the ordinary about this among the public schools of the time and Charterhouse School changed completely with its move to Godalming in 1872.

The remaining foundation of Sutton’s Hospital, smashed and burnt in part by the Blitz, still looks after 40 old men and does it very well, what with the expense of compliance with health and safety rules and the modern expectations of extended medical care for old people. But, in the middle of the 20th century, something happened that addressed the discomfort of its historical inheritance.

Geoffrey Curtis (1902-81) was a member of the Anglican religious Community of the Resurrection, at Mirfield in West Yorkshire. In 1938, he edited a contemporary account of the martyrdom of the Carthusians and began to campaign for a memorial plaque to them at the London Charterhouse.

He hoped to transform an atmosphere that “chills so mortally the relations between the established church and the church of Rome in England”. Deaths, war and finances delayed his ambition, but he persevered until, in 1958, in the open air at the site of the high altar of the former priory church, a plaque was set up.

“Remember before God,” it says, “the monks and lay-brothers of the Carthusian house of the Salutation who worshipped at this altar and for conscience sake endured torment and death.”

And now, the 25th anniversary of Geoffrey Curtis’s death, a neat plaque to his memory has been fixed on the wall of the ante-chapel of the Charterhouse. A requiem Eucharist was sung and the Archbishop of Canterbury, himself once a lecturer at Mirfield, sent a message calling Curtis “a servant of the unity of God’s Church and a man whose prayerful quiet gave him a true insight into the Carthusian martyrs, whose witness he chronicled”.

Charterhouse is a microcosm of England: historic, battered, torn by ideologies, modest and beautiful. The scandal of Christian disunity cannot be addressed without awareness of its historical roots. The initiative at the Charterhouse to honour the work begun by Geoffrey Curtis is a generous and brave one.

Reprinted with permission of Telegraph Media Group Limited
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2007.
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Spiritual Direction

It is very important to remember that some of the Reformers were profoundly skeptical about traditional Catholic or Orthodox spiritual life and practices, including anything monastic, and veered their approach to discipleship away from such things. This is why there is very little context today in some denominations for the discussion of spirituality, mysticism, contemplation, asceticism or spiritual direction or guidance.

Bear in mind that Spiritual Direction it is a charismatic gift given directly by God to its bearer, and has little or nothing to do with ordination or the jurisdictional authority of church leadership positions. In the Charterhouse, as in the desert hermit tradition, not every monk is recognized as capable of Spiritual Guidance. The few that are, receive authorization by the Prior to use their charism as Confessors, Novice Masters, Vicar of the Prior or as the Procurator.

Ideally a spiritual director has lived spiritual experience and a vigorous faith-filled “contemplative prayer life”. Clearly a praying person seeks God, wants to please God and do God’s Will. Has knowledge of the developmental patterns of the spiritual life. Requires an openness to carefully listen to you, and with you, to what the God is saying to you in the movements of your own spiritual growth; and helps you understand what God is asking you to do about it. A person who is discerning of the spirits mixed in with the Movement of the Holy Spirit in you, your life, your spirituality, and your prayer, i.e. Spiritual Discernment. And someone you can implicitly trust and have confidence in to get to know you really well and understand you and your spiritual intentions, and understand your personality type, your character with it’s strengths and weaknesses, and your temperament, and be sympathetic to how this all works together in you and your life, but also, not blind to or overly condoning of their dysfunctions.

While St. Gregory the Great tells us this is the ultimate pastoral ministry, it is nothing one can be ordained to, since it is a charismatic gift. What he exhorts Pastors to do is prepare for the gift by living a life worthy of it and by praying for it for God’s Sake, for God’s Glory in the wellbeing of souls. So, this is also got to be someone whose advice and guidance you are going to willing take and follow or even OBEY for the Love of Christ!

Our Spirtual Director also needs to be someone who can lovingly but firmly hold you spiritually and morally accountable and take you to task for continuing in consistent spiritual growth and the elimination of what is contrary or inconsistent to it in your life. Can help you understand the deeper meaning of your spiritual reading and study, someone with whom you can process things you find striking, or that stand out in a special way to you, through which God is talking to you or calling to your attention. An individual who understands that Spiritual Direction is a specialized, stylized, extremely respectful, somewhat lopsided, Sacred relationship of unequals, who must keep a certain detachment from each other and from becoming overly familiar conventional buddies and chums, on the one hand, and yet have a loving open communication and confident trust on the other hand. Since their is a special intimacy and vulnerability involved in this relationship, great care needs to be exercised to keep it exclusively at the service of God by maintaining all its focus on God at work in the directee/mentee. And importantly, someone who has sufficient time to devote to your direction.

Possible plausible candidates for your spiritual director/ soul-friend would be whomever it is that God leads you to who fits more closely these qualities in relation to your spiritual growth. While it is ideal to have a live person you can physically meet with, church history is replete with examples of epistlatory spiritual direction relationships, which in our day and age also include cyber and telephonic spiritual guidance relationships. Do whatever works! Guidance is where and how you find it!

While you may find this a bit daunting at first glance, once you have absorbed the gist of the qualities and especially begun to understand the spirit of spiritual direction or guidance, people you have met or know, either physically or through you cyber fellowship, will start to come to mind, or may even jump out at you.

The above is based on the ideals. In reality, various potential directors have these qualities in varying degrees of strength or obviousness. This is why there is so much stress on Mentorship in contemporary spiritual direction, rather than the Spiritual Mother/Father master and disciple model, mostly to be found only in contemplative monasteries and religious orders with a tradition for spiritual direction like the Discalced Carmelites, Jesuits, Dominicans, etc.

As with all human relationships, there is a time of introduction and initial engagement. There will be a trial period to see if the fit exists and works for both of you. If it does, go for it! If it doesn’t, move on and keep on looking.

Remember that the goal of all spiritual direction is to train the directee to become so sensitive and attuned to the movements of the Holy Spirit in one’s real life. The Carthusian Statutes tell us that we need, from moment to moment, to be willing and desirous to seek and know what God’s will is, and to do just that, purely out of love for God. When this happens, the fruition of all our asceticism and contemplative prayer and sacrifice will be achieved in this hallmark of Mystical Marriage, where there is only One Will, One Love, in Perfect Union with God. And Thomas Merton wrote that ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the spiritual director.

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